I.S.S Review: When Fear Overcomes Science

ISS Movie Review

I.S.S., directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite and written by Nick Shafir, is a thrilling space-set film filled with suspense and tense action. The ensemble cast comprising Ariana DeBose, Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Maria Mashkova, Costa Ronin, and Pilou Asbæk portrays the global crises and fear of astronauts and cosmonauts stranded in the International Space Station (I.S.S). It is an intricate mesh of simmering geopolitical conflict on Earth juxtaposed with the isolation, fear, and frustration of the I.S.S crew members.

However, despite the intriguing premise, I.S.S. doesn’t fully utilize its potential and struggles to find its own identity amid various established science fiction thriller movies. Falling into a frustrating narrative ‘orbit’, the film ends up as a watchable drama with commendable performances but disappoints when it comes to in-depth plot exploration.

The Good:

Ariana DeBose, an Academy Award-winning actress, holds the film’s reins as Dr. Kira Foster. She paints an authentic picture of her character, using a judicious mixture of scientific curiosity and helplessness. The tension and psychological deterioration brought about by their conditions, mixed with orders to control the space station by any means necessary, comes to life thanks to her empathetic performance.

Chris Messina portrays the edgy and nerve-ridden character, Gordon Barrett. He effectively plays the man pushed into uncomfortable ethical decisions while stuck in a unique crisis. John Gallagher [LINK] portrayal of Christian Campbell is lukewarm in comparison to the rest of the ensemble, delivering a functional but largely uninspired performance.

The acting duo Maria Mashkova and Pilou Asbæk inject a taut energy into the plot as Russian crew members Weronika Vetrov and Alexey Pulov, adding to the multinational tension already embedded within the storyline. However, their potential gets curtailed by their relatively weakly fleshed-out character development and backstory.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s direction has glimmers of promise and certainly benefits from Nick Shafir’s strong writing, which positions the narrative between thriller and character-driven drama. Nevertheless, they both struggle to translate the excellent cast’s talents and intriguing premise into a memorable and profound film experience.

The Bad:

Technically, the film fares well with visually convincing depictions of life aboard a space station. However, while being decent in execution, it fails to truly awe with a uniquely aesthetic vision. The space scenes feel like generic depictions we’ve seen countless times, albeit well done. The cinematography is slick, yet misses capturing the immersive nature of their circumstance.

The story is notably ambitious but falls short on a grander scale as it mires in predictable narrative turns. I.S.S. doesn’t really tread new ground. We see shades of Gravity, Interstellar, and other space exploration thrillers in its thematic approach and resolution, but it does not offer much beyond these familiar beats.

One could argue that I.S.S. is more of a suspense film with a backdrop of space, rather than an exploration of space itself, yet even on that ground, the suspense ebbs and flows inconsistently. It sometimes feels that the narrative loses its course midway through the movie and seems to struggle in wrapping up the film’s premise, thus leading to an unremarkable and inconclusive ending.


Overall, I.S.S. stands out as an adequately crafted film buoyed by robust performances, particularly DeBose and Messina, yet fails to become a memorable entry in the space-themed filmography. Its potential weighed down by weak character development and lack of unique narrative perspective, resulting in a generic tale that leaves viewers wanting more.

While the film isn’t entirely disappointing, it struggles to leave a lasting impression and can’t entirely leverage its promising plot. I.S.S. is a one-time watch that promises thrilling space-set drama but could not completely live up to its potential due to inconsistent storytelling and a familiar cinematic formula.

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I.S.S Review: When Fear Overcomes Science
  • Acting - 7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 6.5/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 5/10
  • Watchability - 6/10
  • Rewatchability - 4/10
User Review
1 (1 vote)

About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.